Government // Leadership
News
5/1/2013
02:54 PM
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Pentagon Seeks Robotic Hand With Soft Touch

DARPA invests in technology to develop more human-like robotic hands; iRobot demonstration shows promise.

Spy Tech: 10 CIA-Backed Investments
Spy Tech: 10 CIA-Backed Investments
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
The Department of Defense has demonstrated a robotic hand with finger movements that are closer to those of a human hand than the claw-like hands of earlier robots.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Autonomous Robotic Manipulation (ARM) program released a video showing the prototype hand picking up a key, turning it in a door lock, and opening a door, among other tasks. The device was built by iRobot.

The purpose of the ARM program is to develop autonomous manipulation devices that are able to grasp and manipulate objects of various sizes in a real-world environment, receiving only high-level direction from human operators. The goal is to enable robotic hands to work in military mission environments, faster and with increased autonomy.

[ What other innovations has DARPA been investing in? Read 10 Breakthrough DARPA Technologies. ]

Contractors for the hardware part of the program are developing hand mechanisms with three or four fingers and usable palms to replace the pincer-type claws on robots today. While current technology costs about $50,000 per device, DARPA’s teams have produced hands that could be built for as little as $3,000 each, if purchased in lots of 1,000.

In addition to straightforward pickup of objects that are very small, awkwardly shaped, or heavy, the new wave of robotic hands can manipulate them between their fingers when controlled by skilled operators. This enables the hands to make use of tools ordinarily used by humans.

In addition to hardware development, the ARM program has a software track, which is developing new algorithms and ways the hands can grasp and manipulate, using embedded sensors. There also is an outreach track, which places robotic systems in public museums such as the National Air and Space Museum for demonstration purposes. DARPA also has encouraged companies and individuals to develop algorithms for robot autonomy, which can be tied through the Internet to a real system for evaluation and demonstration.

Uncle Sam's taken the lead on secure use of cloud services. Here's how FedRAMP can change your experience, too. Also in the new, all-digital Follow The Feds issue of InformationWeek: Candid career advice for women in IT includes calling work-life balance a myth. (Free registration required.)

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
PJS880
50%
50%
PJS880,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/27/2013 | 3:26:04 PM
re: Pentagon Seeks Robotic Hand With Soft Touch
So am I reading this
correctly, I can get a huge discount if I buy these arms by the thousand? All
jokes aside this is really cool that a robot can have that detailed controlled
with small targets, and complete the tasks successfully. It is also amazing that
the cost of these is so inexpensive to make comparatively. DARPA has
successfully created the same product for a 1/16th of the cost, why
wouldnGt you order these by the thousands?

Paul Sprague

InformationWeek Contributor
2014 US Salary Survey: 10 Stats
2014 US Salary Survey: 10 Stats
InformationWeek surveyed 11,662 IT pros across 30 industries about their pay, benefits, job satisfaction, outsourcing, and more. Some of the results will surprise you.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Must Reads Oct. 21, 2014
InformationWeek's new Must Reads is a compendium of our best recent coverage of digital strategy. Learn why you should learn to embrace DevOps, how to avoid roadblocks for digital projects, what the five steps to API management are, and more.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
A roundup of the top stories and community news at InformationWeek.com.
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.